SUPERGIRL: EXPLODING TRUMP TOON HEADS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON TWO REVIEW, PART ONE

The Adventures of Supergirl:

Airdate: 10 October, 2016

Written By: Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Jessica Queller
Directed By: Glen Winter

Superman finally appears and, despite the shoulder pad cape, Tyler Hoechlin proves to be the best actor essaying the man of steel role since Christopher Reeve. As Clark Kent, Hoechlin surpasses Reeve and keeps it mild mannered as opposed to tripping over his shoe strings. No one could mistake Reeve’s Kent as having sex appeal, but Hoechlin perfects the 21st century GQ geek so naturally that even Cat Grant is reaching for a new shade of lipstick. The scene where he is introduced to the DEO gets right what alludes Zach Snyder. Hoechlin’s portrayal has been rightly acclaimed, but to date, CW has not acted on calls to give him his own series and probably won’t for fear it will compete with Henry Cavill’s execrable big screen endeavors.

Still, this is Supergirl and even Hoechlin can’t outshine Benoist. “The Adventures of Supergirl” is a very good start to a sophomore season that sees numerous changes, most of which are for the betterment of the series.

After Cat offers Kara the “keys to the kingdom” through a promotion of her choosing, Kara opts for a reporter position, which casts her in the light of The Daily Planet’s Clark Kent. It’s a disappointing and imitative narrative solution. Still, it’s a small quibble. Better is Winn finally getting to prove his mettle by landing a job at the DEO, where his skills are better suited.

After Superman arrives, there’s entertaining relational angles; Winn’s hero worship, and Henshaw’s considerable tensions with the man from Krypton.

This is also the episode which brings in another strange visitor; Mon-El  (Chris Wood), Lena Luthor (Katie McGrath), and her wretch of a mother: Lillian Luthor (Brenda Strong).  Being mostly on ice after crash landing, Mon-El isn’t a factor yet, although Supergirl gets in a good reference joke comparing him to David Bowie’s character from The Man Who Fell To Earth.

The Jimmy Olsen/Kara Danvers romance gets holstered before it even began, which paves the way for Supergirl’s first big romance. To be continued, of course.

Lena, being a Luthor, is under suspicion, but she’s actually a target, as Superman and Kara discover. As Lena, McGrath is a marvelously shaded addition to the series and a needed one. She teeters on following the family tradition of super villainy (she doesn’t hesitate to shoot down a potential assassin) and hopefully the writers will avoid that and keep her an imperfect ally to Kara.

Luther mommy dearest Lillian also shows up near the finale and we’ll see why, with Lex, the proverbial apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The Last Children of Krypton:

Air Date: 17 October, 2016

Written By: Robert Rovner & Caitlin Parrish

Directed By: Glen Winter

This is the second part of the teaming with Superman and it surpasses its predecessor, making it one of the best episodes to date.

It opens with old fashioned small-time Super heroics with Hoechlin delivering a gratifying line to a crook who opts to throw a punch after attempting to shoot the man of steel: “If the bullets don’t work, why the punching? I’ve never understood that.”

The dialogue between the cousins from Krypton flawlessly nails the spirit of golden age comics:”Does this ever get old?” Supergirl asks Superman. “If it does, I’ll let you know.” We enjoy them being super almost as much as they do.

Henshaw, still harboring a Superman grudge, naturally tries to rain on the parade. “When you two are done showboating…”  Alex chastises the Martian: “You said you’d try to get along with Superman” and an eavesdropping Winn adds in an amusingly geeky Yoda imitation: “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Meanwhile, Lillian is busy channeling Peter Cushing, creating dual monsters named Metallo (Frederick Schmidt and Rich Ting). Cat introduces Kara to her new boss; Snapper Carr (the underrated character actor Ian Gomez) who makes a colorfully grumpy addition (he will keep Kara in her place).  “Ponytail,” he calls her. “Oh, you jerky…guy.” This is the precursor to Cat’s departure here. Although complaints were lodged about this change, it’s needed. Cat discovered Supergirl, inspired Kara, and donned the matronly position. Now it’s time for Supergirl to fly out of the nest. Lena will be an edgier (and ultimately more interesting) replacement to Cat.

The Kryptonite-charged cyborg Metallo (Schmidt) proves to be a daunting advisory and the producers pay visual homage to the famous Crisis comic when he bests Kara. His victory is temporary because this is an episode about team-ups: Superman and Supergirl; Superman and Martian Manhunter (we knew that animosity wasn’t going to last): Martian Manhunter and Supergirl; Alex and Winn (we need more of them together); Alex and Supergirl; Winn and Superman. Winn cries.

Welcome To Earth:

Air Date: 24 October, 2016

Written By: Jessica Queller and Derek Simon

Directed By: Rachel Talalay

Now out of the nest with Mama Cat and Superman both gone, Supergirl takes on plenty of issues. This is the episode that inspired thousands of exploding Trump Toon heads and sent them crawling back to their basement and trailer parks, crying constipated tears of slush.

The offensive bullet points come fast and furious: Henshaw, Supergirl, and Alex engage in dialogue about the demonization of “them” (illegal aliens. Mr. Rod Serling is smiling down from that Twilight Zone in the sky); National City welcomes Madame President Olivia Marsdin (Lynda Carter channeling Clinton) who actually remembers what the Statue of Liberty is about and is “better than the other guy;” the closet door is opened for the same-sex relationship between Alex and Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima); and Jimmy Olsen-you know the African-American guy-is now the CEO of Catco.

There’s a villain of the week too in Scorcher (Nadine Crocker), but that’s only half-baked. More interesting is the interplay between Snapper and Jimmy and Kara;  the developments of the Daxamite Mon-El and Lena Luthor; and the finale into of M’gann M’orzz: The Last Daughter of Mars (Sharon Leal).

Survivors: 

Air Date: 31 October, 2016

Written By:  Paula Yoo and Eric Carrasco
Directed BY: James Marshall

This had an interesting premise with the villain Roulette (Dichen Lachman) running an underground fight club for aliens, but it’s short-shifted in what should have been the main story by again trying to cram in spotlights on all the supporting characters (something Star Trek was often guilty of). Despite rushed writing, the secondary narratives are all of interest: Gomez continues to add color to a character that could be reduced to cliche; In trusting M’gann; Henshaw is abducted and drafted into the fight club. Winn trains Mon-El; Maggie and Alex are slowly but surely stepping out and into…

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MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (2016)

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-by-ransom-riggs

Novelist Ransom Riggs and Tim Burton should have been an ideal match, but Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (2016) is yet another verification that this director is at the end of his tether.

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-2016-tim-burton

Burton can’t take the sole blame. He shares that honor with screenwriter Jane Goldman, who previously scripted two of the better X-Men sagas. This is part of the problem: they treat the material as if it’s the initial entry in a new and potentially profitable X-Men-styled franchise. For a director who has long made claims to specializing in films for the peculiar, Burton shows no genuine enthusiasm for his newest project and, with Goldman, sucks all the peculiarity out of its source material. This has been Tim Burton’s modus operandi for a long time, apparent to almost everyone (the director’s zealous, in-denial cult excepted). Burton likewise neutered all the surrealism of Lewis Carroll’s Alice and Disneyfied Barnabas Collins, Sweeney Todd, and Willy Wonka. Even Disney itself, teamed with Bing Crosby, was more adept at interpreting Washington Irvin’s Ichabod Crane. There’s a problem when two paragons of artistic conservatism have a better feel for the kooky-souled than a self-proclaimed specialist.

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-2016-tim-burton

Burton came closest to a return to form with The Corpse Bride (2005), which he co-directed with Mike Johnson, along with Big Eyes (2014), the story of Margaret Keane. Despite being a personal project, the latter film eventually faltered in focusing on a kitsch suburban artist who simply wasn’t as interesting as the working relationship between the world’s worst director and one of the world’s worst ham actors of all time in Ed Wood. Still, this is the director who took a pre-existing pulp character (Batman) and managed to produce two comic book-inspired masterpieces stamped with highly personalized weirdness. He probably would have done the same for Superman, or at least that appears to be the case from the fascinating documentary Death of Superman Lives: What Happened? (2015).

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BATMAN V SUPERMAN : DAWN OF JUSTICE (2016 ZACK SNYDER)

BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016 ZACK SNYDER)

How can a movie with the two biggest male kahunas in comic book history go wrong? Easily, if it’s made by Hack Snyder. The best thing that can be said about Batman vs. Superman (2016) is that it’s not quite as wretched as Man Of Steel (2013).

BATMAN V SUPERMAN (2016 ZACK SNYDER)
Predictably, upon receiving news that actor Ben Affleck had been cast in the role of the Dark Knight, comic book fans took their protest to social media. Actually, the actor has little to work with here, and, for some reason, uses Christian Bale‘s “mouthful of rocks” voice when wearing the Bat armor. Thus, through Snyder’s apathetic direction, Affleck is rendered a beefcake yet again, unable to make the role his own. The writers (David Goyer and Chris Terrio) certainly did not give Affleck the humorous, burnout nuances that he perfected in his performance as TV Superman George Reeves in Hollywoodland(2006). With Good Will Hunting (1997), GoneBaby Gone (2007), The Town (2010), and Argo (2012), Affleck has certainly proved to be a better writer and director than Snyder or his team, which may give DC Comics fanboys a glimmer of hope for his upcoming solo Batman project. One would think fans would have been more worried about Snyder and prepared for the predictable worst since he has never made even a remotely good film. What Snyder had delivered in BvS amounts to a disarrayed, Michael Bay-styled “Passion Of The Batman.” As for the handling of Superman: that is a Snyder slider that can only be craved by people who hate the character.

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PEE WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY (2016)

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

Forget Batman, Pee-wee is back.

Exclusively for Netflix, Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) returns with his first feature in 28 years. Pee-wee’s Big Holiday (2016) could be (and has been in some quarters) dismissed as “Pee-wee’s Next Big Adventure.” Is it as original as that Tim Burton-helmed Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)? No, but it’s a welcome return. Actually, Pee-wee has weathered pop culture better than Burton, who lost his mojo in the 90s.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

There are a few pleasant surprises here, such as not-so-subtle homage to Russ Meyer‘s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965). Still, mostly Reubens plays it safe, giving us exactly what we expect of him.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

Pee-wee Herman comes from a very small cinematic tradition of the “creepy man-child,” which Harry Langdon introduced in the silent era. Primarily under the direction of Harry Edwards and Frank Capra, Langdon initially kept his character’s more disturbingly childlike qualities in check. However, eager to expand that characterization, Langdon eventually let loose—which quickly destroyed his career, even if the results were artistically satisfying.

Pee-wee's Big Holiday (2016)

Stan Laurel, very much influenced by Langdon, learned from his mentor’s populist misstep and kept the baby-face half of Laurel and Hardy forever innocent. Jacques Tati, also influenced by Langdon, had more freedom with a European audience. In 1979, Steve Martin introduced his take on the naughty child. However, after a few experiments that unfortunately failed at the American box office, Martin took the safer route of growing up, which eventually rendered his body of work both disappointing and inconsequential. Reuben’s Pee-wee Herman character first emerged around the same time as Martin’s. After Burton and Rubens produced the masterpiece Pee-wee’s Big Adevnture, 1988’s Big Top Pee Wee  was a disaster. This flop hardly mattered due to Reuben’s award winning “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” TV show (which earned 15 Emmys in 5 years). Reubens was undoubtedly the most original small screen personality since Ernie Kovacs.

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